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Shipping Glossary

Shipping and freight forwarding terms and acronyms can be a real minefield. We’ve explained a few of the more common ones, but get in touch if there are any we don’t have listed.



Actual Time of Arrival, or Airport-To-Airport, or Air Transport Association of America.


Actual Time of Departure.

Air WayBill

An AWB is a bill of lading which covers both domestic and international flights transporting goods to a specified destination. Technically, it is a non-negotiable instrument of air transport which serves as a receipt for the shipper, indicating that the carrier has accepted the goods listed therein and obligates itself to carry the consignment to the airport of destination according to specified conditions. Normally AWB refers to the Air Waybill issued by carrying airlines and also called Master Air Waybill (MAWB) which comes with three digits of numeric airline identification codes issued by IATA to non-U.S. based airlines and Air Transport Association of America to U.S. based airlines. However, air freight forwarders also issue HAWB (House Air Waybill ) to their customers for each of the shipments. 

Aircraft Container

A unit load device ( ULD ) which links directly with the airplane cargo handling and restraint system. 

All Risk

All Risks Coverage, a type of marine insurance, is the broadest kind of standard coverage, but excludes damage caused by war, strikes, and riots.


A term used to describe blocked space by airlines on behalf of forwarders/shippers.


A phrase referring to the side of a ship. Goods to be delivered alongside are to be placed on the dock or lighter within reach of the transport ship's tackle so that they can be loaded aboard the ship. Goods are delivered to the port of embarkation, but without loading fees.

BAF ( Bunker Adjustment Factor )

An adjustment in shipping charges to offset price fluctuations in the cost of bunker fuel.

Bill of Lading ( B/L )

Bills of lading are contracts between the owner of the goods and the carrier. There are two types. A straight bill of lading is nonnegotiable. A negotiable or shipper's order bill of lading can be bought, sold, or traded while goods are in transit and is used for many types of financing transactions. The customer usually needs the original or a copy as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.

Bill of Sale

A bill of sale is a legal document made by a 'seller' to a purchaser, reporting that on a specific date, at a specific locality, and for a particular sum of money or other "value received", the seller sold to the purchaser a specific item of personal, or parcel of real, property of which he had lawful possession. It is a written instrument which evidences the transfer of title to personal property from the vendor, seller, to the vendee, buyer.

Bonded Warehouse

The Customs Service authorizes bonded warehouses for storage or manufacture of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods enter the Customs Territory. The goods are not subject to duties if re-shipped to foreign points.

Break Bulk (B/B)

For consolidated air freight, it is moved under one MAWB and each consignment designated to specific consignee or recipient is under one HAWB . When freight forwarder receives the consolidated cargo from carrier, they will break the consolidation apart per HAWB then proceed customs clearance along with associated shipping and import documents. Such Break-Bulk is normally handled by airlines or their contracted ground handling agent.

Breakbulk Vessel

A general cargo vessel designed to efficiently handle un-containerised cargo. Vessels are usually self-sustaining in that they have their own loading and unloading machinery.

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